Black History in Pennsylvania's Americana Region
at Central PA African American Museum
In February, our country observes Black History Month. Throughout the month, and all year-long, Pennsylvania’s Americana Region invites you to visit Central PA African American Museum (CPAAM). Both a museum and a historic site, CPAAM affords an invaluable resource to anyone interested in learning about Black history of Reading and Berks County, Pennsylvania.
CPAAM was founded by local resident, Frank Gilyard. He acted as the museum’s president until his death in 2013. Thanks to his passion for black history, the museum showcases an impressive collection of artifacts, court records, and documents covering over 180 years of African American experiences in our region. Appropriately enough, the museum resides in the oldest black-owned church in Berks County, the Old Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. A registered landmark, the church housed a stop on the Underground Railroad. Today, the cramped compartment in the church cellar makes for a most compelling exhibit. Imagine the thoughts that went through the minds of runaway slaves, hidden in those dank quarters!
A Gentleman and a Scholar - It’s impossible to write about CPAAM, without referencing the museum’s founder, Frank Gilyard. Mr. Gilyard was a respected, and beloved member of the community. A gifted storyteller, encounters with Frank often led to a short history lesson about Reading and Berks. His wealth of knowledge and willingness to share, brought topics to life for anyone lucky enough to walk the museum with him. Along with interesting details, and fascinating anecdotes, Frank shared a passion for black history that was contagious.
Pennsylvania’s Americana Region is proud to be home to the Central PA African American Museum. We are grateful this historic facility is available to our community and visitors. Today, the Gilyard’s family, and a dedicated group of volunteers oversee the small, but mighty museum. It stands as testament to one man's dedication, determination, and perseverance.
Contact the museum for hours, or to arrange a tour, prior to visiting.